Foderunt Manus Meas of Psalm 21

Foderunt Manus Meas

Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos, dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea.  Ipsi vero consideraverunt et inspexerunt me.  Diviserunt sibi vestimenta mea, et super vestem meam miserunt sortem.

They have dug my hands and feet.  They have numbered all my bones.  And they have looked and stared upon me.  They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.

Excerpt of Psalm 21:17-19

I would like to introduce my most recent piece, Foderunt Manus Meas, completed in late July 2017.  In this composition, I have cast the above words from the prophetic Psalm 21 of David as a responsory for SATB:


The sheet music is freely available for download at the bottom of the post and is licenced under Creative Commons.


Psalm 21, of course, prophesies the manner of Christ’s death, and the Prayer Before a Crucifix draws particular attention to these words as well.

… Whilst with deep affection and grief of soul I consider within myself and mentally contemplate Thy five most precious wounds, having before mine eyes that which David, the prophet, long ago spoke concerning Thee, “They have pierced My hands and My feet, they have numbered all My bones.”

In contemplating these words, I have attempted to capture the affections which I have observed and express them in music.

Composition and Interpretation Notes

I chose to cast the words as a responsory, having a repeated middle section after the verse; and I patterned it in the style of Victoria’s responsories for Tenebrae.  The verse is written for ATB voices, while the remainder includes the soprano as well.

Broken Rules

Technically speaking, there are some parallel fifths.  Perhaps incorrectly, I prefer the sound with them rather than without them.  In the opening line, the bass has a passing G against the alto’s held D, as they move to A and E, respectively.  The tenor is already singing the D, so a simple resolution is to drop the alto’s D and have her come in on E.  Unfortunately, this produces some undesirable consequences:

  • The accented syllable (“de” of “Foderunt”) would not fall naturally on the downbeat in the alto.
  • The alto’s entering note would be slightly more difficult to find.
  • As the tenor sings the D anyway, it seems as if the parallel fifth would still be there in a sense.

A second spot is the Ipsi between Soprano and Alto, but there is an intervening note, making it less noticeable.  I’m not sure if this is a true parallel fifth or not.


The overall tone of the piece should be mournful.  The “dinumeraverunt” section should be sung lightly (leggiero) while emphasizing the accented syllables, which fall on the 1st and 3rd beats of the measures.  This section should be reminiscent of counting.

The verse is meno moso, a bit slower–but only a bit.  In the alto, no breath should be taken between “sibi” and “vestimenta” as indicated by the slur.  There should be some acceleration at measure 48, bringing the piece back to the original tempo by measure 50.

The piece ends with the repetition of the “Ipsi vero” section.


Please download Foderunt Manus Meas.  I am always interested in feedback, and I would be pleased to know if this or any of my compositions is being sung.

About the Featured Image

The featured image is in the public domain.

Update 2018-01-22

I have slightly modified the lyrics in two places:  added “vero” to the bass in measure 26-27 and added “sibi” to the tenor in measures 42-43.  The PDF download has been updated.

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